We live in a hyper-connected world where social media has dominated our lives. It’s a new phenomenon and we are the guinea pigs. Not since the telephone has the social fabric of society been reworked and so drastically altered. Although Facebook’s motto is to connect people around the world, I’ll offer a different take on the platform’s true intentions — one motivated by capitalism.
I’ve been on Facebook since 2007 towards the end of the Myspace era. That’s 11 years of data collection, photos liked, comments, and GPS coordinates from check-ins. It’s every advertiser’s dream to have access to such data about the population and reliable data that was willingly shared to the network. Any company who pays a fee can use this data in the form of an app to gather as much intel on someone to use as they wish — it’s Facebook’s best kept secret. When news broke of Cambridge Analytica’s use of private Facebook data in the 2016 election was revealed, was anyone really all that surprised they knowingly engage in such business? Their stock price has had year-to-year exponential growth since going public. This isn’t just merely from growing the user base as some would lead you to believe. It’s all business. Data collection and selling of said intel. Brands love Facebook and with their highly sophisticated targeted ad system, makes it a lucrative business to have as much of the population on there as possible.
What would one make of their motto: to connect people? Bullshit. Do you really think saying happy birthday on someone’s wall has the same impact as face-to-face? Of course not. Do you really think people care where you eat, check-in to, or go clubbing at? Fuck no. How many times have you walked by that one “friend” on your Facebook in Isla Vista, but did not wave hello? We all are part of a social experiment. Likes, thumbs ups, and hearts give us a small shot of dopamine. We share and engage on Facebook to get our fix. Most are unaware of this phenomenon. We do it subconsciously because we crave and desire validation. We want to know we are liked. It’s addictive. The feedback loop engulfs us as our biological reward system is exploited to consume as much of our time and consciousness as possible.
My Facebook usage peaked in 2014-2015. Senior year in college will do that. How else can you tell everyone about your massive end of the year rager on Sabado? Facebook. Just a few clicks of the mouse and 1000 of my friends were notified of the party. Of course I didn’t know everyone on there that well, but that’s kind of the point when you’re trying to have a good time in college. You add everyone to see where they are and what they’re up to. You drastically increase your social life and before you know it, you’re the most popular guy around. It’s easy. The fear of missing out is strong. Whether you want to admit it or not. Do you remember everyone’s name when you see them? No. How about that girl you’ve just added and been flirting with all night? Good luck with that. Not a chance, baby.
Real world or post college life leads to massive drop in engagement on Facebook. Your one party friend isn’t posting about EOS or clubbing anymore every weekend. Time to get your shit together and get a job. Real world motherfuckers. It’s jarring. A large percentage of post college grads do experience depression following college. Whether you can attribute this to losing the high life or the lack of engagement on social media is not yet clear.
No one goes on Facebook to tell everyone how miserable they are. Every post is generally added with the intent of garnering likes and validation. Sure — some people are on Facebook do tell everyone how much of a Debbie-downer they really are, but this is rare. The absolute exception. Think of your friend’s profiles as their greatest hits album. One that is carefully crafted and curated to be the most desirable aspects of yourself and viewed the most favorably. Maybe it’s pics of a fancy restaurant you’ve been eating at, that new watch you just gotten, or the high paying job others been dreaming of. We naturally share what we want others to like about ourselves.
Tread with caution. Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are fun. But take what you see on there with a grain of salt. That friend with over 1000 friends is likely no happier than the next guy down the list. There’s evidence to correlate high friend counts with lower life satisfaction. Do not get caught up on the false narrative and lose your happiness. Your mental health will suffer. Be thankful of the life you have.